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My husband is an only child. His job is stressful and consumes a lot of his time. So, I try to help his mom when I can, which it has mostly fallen to me, although he has stepped up more in recent months. She is widowed and a very needy person and has always been babied, which she admits to. She is able to live alone and mostly care for herself. She feels I keep him from her, when actually I encourage him to see her. Her neediness gets to him and he stays away. When she doesn't get the attention she wants, she gets very argumentative and unpleasant to me. I'm not perfect either. I've tried fighting back and trying to talk with her. Doesn't work... she doesn't see that. She's done anything wrong... it's just my fault. My hubby feels it's both of us, although he admits he sees I'm really trying. Also says his mom has always been difficult to get along with. Others have said this too. I mow her lawn, do her yard work, and many other jobs. It's rare that I get a thank you or a smile. I've also tried calling or visiting her and doing fun or nice things for her. Doesn't work, so I stay away now. So, when three of us are together, I try to say nothing - no comments or opinions- and just let them talk. Comments from me about anything often results in her being argumentative and snippy. I also try to let my husband walk with her, open doors for her etch instead of me. In a way I try to be invisible. Typically, she talks to me when she wants something from me, which she seems happiest when others are doing something for her and babying her. Regular conversations are rare between her and I, but she will talk to others. The bad part is that I'm getting to where I don't want to be around her and I feel very stressed when I am. But if I let them go alone when my husband expected to go, I'm concerned it could affect our marriage. He wants me with them, which is sweet, but I feel she needs time with just him. I can't help thinking that she doesn't want me around. I think she wishes I wasn't so my husband could move in with her. My husband just wants us to get along. He's tired of complaints from both of us, which I can't blame him. So, I try not to say anything and just take it. He is a peace loving person and hates confrontation. I'm really trying but I just don't know what else to do. Sorry about rambling and ranting. Thank you for listening.

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She lives across the street! Visions of "Everybody Loves Raymond" come to mind. I still think giving them time for just the two of them is a good idea. And hire someone to mow the lawn.
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I appreciate the suggestions and am going to try some of them. Another complication to the story is that she now lives across the street from us, which has made things harder. We encouraged her to move closer after my FIL died, but I can now see the mistake in it. And nearly every Sunday she wants to ride to church with us. She occasionally drives herself. I may start going on my own part of the time just to give us all space. And I should say that my hubby is a great guy... and is very patient with us both.
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I agree with the others. She isn't your mother so don't knock yourself out. Once a year visit comes to mind. If she is rude at that visit even after 5 minutes, get up and leave. Let your husband do it. He needs to grow a backbone and take care of his mother, not you take care of her. He also needs to take care of you and be a leader in his family. Like countrymouse said sit back and take it easy. If you never again go to her house or see her, then so be it.
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How interesting!

I hope that doesn't sound like an unsympathetic response to your post, but the point is that I am so pleased to hear about this situation from the Daughter In Law's point of view (you being the DIL). My mother is like your MIL as far as my brother is concerned. She adores him, but his wife and my mother… well, it's not a happy combination of personalities, let's put it that way.

My poor SIL bends over backwards to do things for my mother. Sadly, because of who she is and what she's like, she often gets it resoundingly, hysterically wrong - the vivid navy and cyclamen print polyester blouse springs to mind… But say what you like about her (and I blush to admit that I often do) there's no want of effort. Similarly, my mother blames my brother's lack of communication on his wife. That I always nip in the bud because it is a ludicrous suggestion: on the rare occasions when he does ring you can usually hear her in the background prompting, and it's all too obvious that she's had to stand over him and nag all evening to get him to pick up the phone. But the fact is that it is much easier for my mother to believe that my SIL has stolen my brother away than to accept that he can't be bothered to keep in regular touch and - as with your husband - finds it harder to do the guiltier and more needed he feels.

Well, so what does the perfect daughter-in-law do to keep the peace and still maintain her sanity?

1. You can't please her, so stop trying to. Please yourself. Do what *you* think is right and fair and reasonable. She wants to have a strop? Let her. It won't be your fault.

2. Others can baby her if they have the time and inclination. You don't have to. Again, do for her anything you think is important that also suits your schedule. You are not responsible for her overall welfare.

3. Your husband would like the two most important women in his life to get along. Well, I would like world peace and my cuttings to root. He needs to see things "as they are, not as they ought to be." But you can help him by not martyring yourself and therefore getting stressed and miserable. Of course you could point out with justification that his mother could also help him by being civil to his wife; but unfortunately it doesn't seem to work like that. If she won't admit she's in the wrong - and she won't - then she won't lift a finger to improve matters. Besides, some people view this kind of conflict as recreational. Let her. You don't have to join in.

So sometimes he can take her out on his own, and at other times - again, when it suits you and you've nothing better to do - you go along too and treat her as you would your own mother. Would you expect your husband to offer your mother his arm? It's the gentlemanly thing to do. It's a case (tee-hee) of age before beauty. Graciously accept her precedence on these occasions and you will win. Don't be afraid to let him go on his own if it makes logistical sense and you have a good reason not to accompany him. Your husband loves you and his mother crabbing about you in your absence is not going to change his mind. Sit easy. Best of luck.
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Boundariesbooks
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Blue..........Here's my take on the situation. He is an only child. It really appears that she wants his time with her is just him. She wants him to herself. Don't feel compelled to go all the time. He is the one to set up his schedule with her, so she can't blame you or think you are keeping him from her. Also, If she has the money, hire a lawn service for crying out loud. If I were you, if necessary, I would chip in a few bucks toward it. I'd be darned if I would mow her lawn for her. Your time with her should be as a daughter in law, not a unpaid hired hand.
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Isn't there a book out there called "Bounderies"? I seem to recall Eyeirish recommending it.
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P.S. It seems very regimented and a totally unatural way to have a relationship, but you'll begin to realize that there is no real relationship.
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Just some examples: How often you will agree to go visit (if you do, you may decide not to), how long the visits will last (no more than 1 hour? 2 hours?), at what point you'll get up and leave if she's rude. Will your husband take over the yard maintenance, and if he can't/won't, tell your MIL to hire someone.
Just a few examples...
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What kind of boundaries?
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Lol, ba8alou and I must've cross posted!
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Hi Bluediamond, this is such a frustrating situation because the only solution is for you to draw some boundaries, and accept that the adjustment will be difficult -- for you, your husband, and his mother. Having any kind of civil relationship is impossible with your MIL because she's not interested in that. You're probably right in that she doesn't want you around unless you're doing something for her, and then she'll ignore the fact that you actually did her a favor.
Sometimes joint counseling helps, if this is something you think your husband might be up for. You don't have to have serious marital issues to go. This is a huge challenge that many families have to deal with, and an unbiased person can really help steer you both toward solutions. I've gone to therapy myself, specifically because there were people in my life that were making me miserable, runnng me ragged, and I was terrible at setting boundaries. The therapist really helped me realize that it's necessary to stand up for myself, and she guided me through the horrible awkwardness of it, and subsequent fallout (because you will always have that when people in your life are angry that they can't manipulate you anymore). It gets better, but if you need to call in the professionals, do it. It's 100% worth it. Good luck :)
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How about going for some couples counseling? You both need a safe space to share your frustrations about this situation.

My first thought was "why is she doing yard work for someone who doesn't say thank you?". It's your husband's job to stand up for you to his mother. If he can't see that being around her makes you both miserable, you've got some work to do in therapy.
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